What Is A Behavioral Interview?

You landed an interview! Congrats! Just as you’re about to do your touchdown dance, your interviewer says that will be a Behavioral Interview. But wait -- what does that mean? Do you have to do something special for it? Our experts are here to answer.


What is it?


A Behavioral Interview is really just a normal interview, but the focus is on your past behaviors. Your potential employer wants to understand how you will act in the job, and past behavior points towards future behavior more clearly than a hypothetical situation.


Steve, Hiring Expert at Caterpillar, Inc., explains that “you should be prepared for reflective questions such as these: 'Tell me about a time when…,' or, 'Can you please provide an example of when you had to…,'”1 and so forth. Essentially, employers want to see how you react to success, difficulty, and team collaboration.


How do I prepare?


While you will be relying on your own personal experiences, that doesn’t mean you can’t prepare for a Behavioral Interview. Lori, Hiring Expert at Cigna, recommends the following: “Brainstorm ahead of your interview specific situations. These situations should include a time where you were successful on a team, or a specific project, a learning experience, how you reacted to negative feedback, how you provided negative feedback, etc.”2 Write down these situations so they’re easy to recall when you’re asked about them in the interview.


How do I structure my answers?


Ultimately, employers are looking to see if you can fit in with their team. They also want to see that you have the ability to recover if you make a mistake, and that you can learn from it. One of the best ways to show learning is with the S.T.A.R. method.


Gigi, Hiring Expert at ADP, explains this method: “S.T.A.R. stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Response. If you position your responses in a S.T.A.R. format, it allows you to be short and concise with your answers. It also provides insight to the interviewer on your response to situations in the workplace or in school.”3


Steve, Hiring Expert from Caterpillar, Inc., re-words this as “the Situation (what happened), your Behavior (what you did about it), and the Outcome (what ultimately changed).”4 Answering questions in this format allows your potential employer to fully understand your role in a situation, putting your behavior into better context.


Although a Behavioral Interview might sound scary, it’s really not much different than an ordinary interview. If you take the time beforehand to reflect upon your previous experiences and how you’ve handled problems in the past, you shouldn’t have any difficulty with a Behavioral Interview. That means you can spend less time worrying and more time getting pumped for your new job.


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